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U.S. Senate Records Reveal Google Inc. Lobbying Campaign On Personal Medical Records Law Despite Internet Giant’s Denials | Inside Google
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Press Release

U.S. Senate Records Reveal Google Inc. Lobbying Campaign On Personal Medical Records Law Despite Internet Giant’s Denials

CONTACT: 310-392-0522 x317 or Carmen Balber 202 629-3043

Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 9:32 am

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Washington, DC — First quarter federal reports show Google lobbied on the electronic medical records provisions of the federal economic stimulus act, contradicting the Internet giant’s earlier claims that Consumer Watchdog’s report of its effort was “100 percent false.”

Google’s report shows a total expenditure of $880,000 on lobbying during the period including on “online health-related initiatives; issues relating to online personal health records, including in connection with H.R. 1: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”  Google also contracted with an outside firm, the Podesta Group, which independently reported lobbying for Google on “health information technology” and “online privacy.”

King and Spalding LLP also independently reported lobbying for Google on “online health-related initiatives, including health information technology provisions in H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

After the nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog reported the “rumored” lobbying in January, Google contacted a charitable foundation about withdrawing  Consumer Watchdog’s funding.

In a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt released today, Consumer Watchdog said the company owes the group an apology.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here.

“It is now clear from public records that Google was lobbying Congress relating to online personal health records in connection with the economic stimulus act…  What else could Google have been seeking except to be excluded from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provisions on privacy and forbidding sale of records? Please tell us,”  wrote Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog president and John M. Simpson, consumer advocate.

“There is a simple way to resolve this,”  the letter said. “Publicly release all the substance of Google’s lobbying efforts on H.R. 1. Google knows the drill: organize the information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Consumer Watchdog  called on Google Inc. to come clean and release the specific positions it advocated during its lobbying campaign, reiterating an earlier call for disclosure. Issues that Google sought to influence are listed in first quarter lobbying reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records. The documents show how much was spent in the period and what issues Google sought to influence, but do not make clear the company’s specific positions.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s earlier letter here.

In January Consumer Watchdog issued a news release  asking Google to cease a “rumored lobbying effort” to ease provisions of the federal stimulus act that would have prevented the sale of electronic personal medical records.  Google responded with a post on its Public Policy Blog calling the release “100 percent false and unfounded.”  Then Robert Boorstin, Director of Corporate and Policy Communications, sought to have Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project funding from the Rose Foundation cut off.

“You owe us and your users a clear explanation of what Google was doing in the Capitol,” the new letter said. “As it stands now, the available record only leads to the conclusion that you were misrepresenting your activities.”

Read Google’s first quarter lobbying report here.

Visit the Senate Office of Public Records database here.

Lobbying firms also independently revealed what they received from Google to lobby for the company. The Podesta Group Inc. reports receiving $150,000 from Google and King and Spalding LLP received $80,000 for their efforts on Google’s behalf.

According to the records, other firms receiving money to lobby on Google’s behalf — though not on the medical records issue — include Dutko Worldwide ($50,000) Franklin Square Group ($50,000), McBee Strategic Consulting ($30,000), Wilmer Cutler Pickering Halle & Dorr ($10,000) and Van Ness Feldman (less than $5,000).

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Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca.  Our website is www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 363 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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